Ever since we made the decision to stay in St. Thomas and work for a year, I’ve been pretty much obsessing over hurricanes. We are “in the zone” which basically means that our insurance won’t cover us if we have damage from a named storm. The aqua arrow points to our location – the green arrow points to Grenada, where we prefer to wait out hurricane season in the Caribbean, even though Grenada is also in the hurricane zone.
Note that both areas have 50% chance of being hit by a named storm; the difference is that it only takes 12 hours to escape to Trinidad from Grenada and it would take 4 days to make that trip form St. Thomas. Trinidad is that island country in circled in yellow, below and to the left of Grenada.
Still, a surprising number of boats stay in St. Thomas. Some folks have moved here and have full-time, year-round careers, living on the boat just as we did in Maine. Others are cruisers-on-a-break, who are here for one, or in some cases two to three years and have definite plans for sailing on to other ports. The past couple of years have been calm hurricane-wise. That means that those who try to predict hurricanes have declared that St. Thomas is due for a big one by the end of 2014. I’m not wishing that on them, but do hope if he’s right that it doesn’t happen this year. Please.
Our cousins, Jeff and Barb have lived on the island for 30 years and gone through two major hurricanes in their current home. When I was discussing my obsession with Barb, she looked at me blankly, “I figure we’re just a little dot on the ocean,” she said. “No reason to worry about it.” Oh. Well, that’s an interesting philosophy.
How to Prepare Your Vessel to Survive a Hurricane
in the U.S. Virgin Islands
You can see by the photo, that I am not exaggerating the name in any way. I like how they chose a cover photo of boats that didn’t survive, don’t you?
I’ve gone on line and checked out the history of storms in this area and looked at where we could have gone to be safe in those storms. Here are the salient points I’ve learned from cousin Jeff, my own research, friends, and Fatty:
- While hurricane season is June 1 to November 30, most storms in St. Thomas have occurred between the middle of August through the end of October.
- Most storms that have hit St. Thomas have started over Africa, headed west between 8 and 12 degrees Latitude North, grew in strength, and then turned slightly northward going over the Lesser Antilles between Guadeloupe and Sint Maarten before “smashing in the Virgin Islands”. (“Smashing” is Fatty’s horrifyingly descriptive word. Charming,)
- A few storms have started directly south of St. Thomas or Puerto Rico.
- La Luna has too deep a draft for the closest hurricane hole.
- We will probably head to one of the Spanish Virgin Islands in the event of a “normal” storm, which would take only 8 hours.
- If one of those storms from the south arise, we will sail east to Sint Maartin, which would take about 20 hours.
So, we will form our hurricane plan, lay in a bunch of supplies, make sure our fuel and water stay topped up, take our boat to the safest possible place, secure her, and find a shelter on land. Then we’ll cross our fingers, and hope for the best. We’ll make sure that we are fine, and do all we can for the boat. I promise.
But you know what? Here are maps showing the 2013 predictions for the eastern US.
Um. This doesn’t look good to me, at all.
And parts of the Northeast have the same level of probability of a storm that we supposedly do.
So all you folks back home? You take care of yourselves, OK?